The language of the slightly-built frame may not instill confidence in the onlooker, but when the uncluttered mind speaks up, the doubts are quickly dispelled. Facing probably the largest field of reporters in his career may have had an unnerving effect on Shamim Khan but competing in his biggest contest had no such ill-effects.
Turning a blind eye to the “depth” of the star-spangled field of the Johnnie Walker Classic, the Delhi golfer instead concentrated on his craft to finish atop the leader board on Day I.
Sharing a card of five-under 67 with Argentine Daniel Vancsik, who was the only one to fire an eagle along with third-placed South African James Kamte atop the chart, may have left the 29-year-old simpleton unable to “explain his happiness in words” but it was clearly a case of mind over matter in the flawless performance that witnessed five birdies and some fine driving at the DLF Golf and Country Club.
“Instead of putting pressure on myself by thinking about the event’s magnitude, I concentrated on my game.
The aim was for a par score but as the birdies came along, I revised my target,” revealed Shamim, whose only career win came in 2006 at the SRF Match Play but has been one of the consistent names in the domestic circuit.
Dwelling on stress, Jeev Milkha Singh buckled after a solid phase till the 15th that swung him atop with a six-under card that contained an equal number of birdies.
“I missed a small putt on the 16th and was very aggressive on the 17th,” he said describing the twin bogeys that forced him to settle for a joint third with Adam Scott, countryman Rahil Gangjee and the rest.
Notwithstanding the lone bad shot at the 16th, the Australian was the only stalwart to live up to his billing and the azure-coloured eyes told the tale.
“It’s a really good position to be in as I don’t have ground to make up and can look to carry the momentum ahead,” remarked the world No. 5.
Despite Jyoti Randhawa (two-under, T24) and S.S.P. Chowrasia’s inability (par, T49) to take off from the blocks, it was a happy situation for the hosts as Arjun Atwal, Arjun Singh and a flu-stricken Shiv Kapur remained in contention at joint 14th with three-under. But the same could not be said for stalwarts Colin Montgomerie (two-over, T90), Ian Poulter (four-over, T115), Miguel Angel Jimenez (three-over, T104) and Sam Torrance (five-over, T120).
Vijay Singh (two-under, T24), one of the few icons to get a hang of the grainy greens, was cross with himself for “throwing away a few shots despite hitting the ball really good”.
“More than the course, I caused problems for myself,” said the old-school golfer while throwing a disapproving glance at Poulter’s designer black and gold outfit replete with coloured Swarovski crystals.
“He might play better golf if he quietens down a bit,” smirked Vijay attired in pastel shades.